RAZORED ZEN

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Singing versus Music

Lana and I had an interesting discussion yesterday about our musical tastes. Hers are much more eclectic than mine. She likes Metallica and Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow and Motley Crue. I hesitate to say it, but she also likes some….disco. Me? I like hard rock and heavy metal. And that’s pretty much it.

In our discussion yesterday, I had a bit of an epiphany about my own musical tastes. That is, I like music that is heavy on the music, and I don’t care about the singing. Lana appreciates both aspects of music, but—for me—the singing is simply…meh. I won’t listen to music just for the sound of the singer’s voice. The music itself has to be catchy and, generally, full of energy and intensity.


I’m going to link to some examples to illustrate my points. First up is “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. I’ve listened to this song several times with Lana and apparently I always say I like it. However, I never seem to remember it next time Lana mentions it, as she did yesterday. So I went and listened to it with my new thoughts on the subject. It’s a good illustration of my point. First let me say, I really like the singer’s voice modulation in this song. However, “Rolling in the Deep” is about the singing, not the music. In fact, to me, the music is virtually non-existent, and is not really important to the effect of the song. It’s all about the voice. 

In contrast, after watching the Adele video, I felt a need for some heavier stuff. I called up “Albatross” by Corrosion of Conformity. Instantly, a surge of energy swept through me. I became aware of my heartbeat, of the taste in my mouth, of the way my eyes moved in their sockets. My fingers started to drum. Other than the word “albatross,” I scarcely know what the singer is saying in this song. Nor do I care. This song is about the music. The voice is a compliment at best. 

I decided to give another work a listen, and chose “Angel” by Sepultura, which is a remake of a Massive Attack song. The music here starts out very slow. It’s almost non-existent, much like in the Adele song. First there are just the words of the singer. But then the music starts to build, it starts to hammer, it starts to scream. My scalp tingles. My body flushes hot and cold. I didn’t see them but I know my pupils dilated. The voice of the singer is mostly just a shriek now. There’s no Adele level modulation of the voice. In fact, half the time he isn’t singing real words. I don’t care. This is what I listen to music for—the power and the glory. 

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An Analogy

The piece below is fiction. Or is it?

So, I was walking along the road with an acquaintance when we noticed that a house across the way was on fire. The fire hadn’t spread very far yet . Fearing that there might be people inside, and figuring there was still a chance to save the place, or at least save some of the stuff inside, I started across the road. My companion grabbed me and pulled me back.

“Wait! Was that fire started by a human? Or was it lightning caused it?”

“What does it matter?” I yelled, trying to pull away. “There may be people in there!”

The man would not let me go. “The important thing,” he said, “is whether we need to blame a ‘who’ or a ‘what.’

By now, the whole first floor of the house was engulfed with flames. I jerked free of his grip and took off toward the fire. The man tackled me from behind and in another moment was sitting on top of me so that I couldn’t get up.

“A who or a what?” the man yelled at me. “If it was humans started it, that’s one thing. Then we could act. But if it was lightning then that’s nature and we just have to let it burn.”

“Get off me!” I screamed.

He wouldn’t. “I think it was lightning,” he said. “We’re just going to have to let it burn.”

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Gods of Talera and Buying Books

Well, I've passed 50,000 words on Gods of Talera. I've also written the last chapter, so I know basically where I'm going. For much of June and July I made outstanding progress. Now, unfortunately, real life has intruded to cause a slow down. Tuesday all our toilets stopped flushing. We had a plumber out and he found out that it was the pipe running from the septic tank that was clogged, most likely with tree roots from all the trees around us.

Now we have to have a new pipe put in and the people who do that had to get digging clearance and won’t be able to start until Monday.  That means showering at the “Y” and bathrooming wherever we can.

While the plumber was here, he noticed that it’s nice and cool under the house, probably because some of our AC piping is leaking or broken. So, we’ve called an AC guy too. We had been doing very well this month on bills after cancelling most of our TV cable and cutting back on our cell phones and on satellite radio, and after poking a new hole in our belts so we could tighten them further. But now that cushion is so far gone that I can’t even see where it was. And it has been like that for month after month for a while now.

We’ve been running in the red for so many months now that I’ve lost track. I believe it’s around 11 or 12 in a row. It’s a good thing I had quite a bit of savings before the run started. One of the worst things for me is not having money to spend on books. I see so many new books I’d like but I’m just forcing myself not to buy them. I’ve bought one .99 cent book for my kindle in the last two months. I’ve also picked up a number of Kindle free deals, of course, and I have years of collected unread works so I’m not in danger of running out of reading material.


But I see new work by friends and colleagues and writers I admire, and I’d love to buy copies of their works to support them, as so many have supported my writing. Unfortunately, it’s not in the cards at the moment. As soon as the cash river regains some flow I’ll be buying some books. I’ve got a big wish list!

As for Gods of Talera, in between phone calls and dealing with all the minutia of getting any house repair done, I've got to try and keep making progress. It's very hard, though. I tend to be a writer who thrives on routine, and I don't write particularly well when emotionally and physically upset. Reckon I need to get over that, given that life seems to be all about constant emotional and physical upset.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

The Worst Novelist in History?

I saw some commentary about bad writing on facebook this morning, and this link was below it, about “The Worst Novelist in History.” I had to read it. And I think I might just agree, although I’ve seen some horrible writing in the modern world.

The fairly short article is about Amanda McKittrick Ros, or at least that was her pen name. Her real name was Anna Margaret Ross. She was born in Northern Ireland in 1860 and died in 1939. She was a schoolteacher, and I find myself wondering what horrific effects she may have had on her students.

Here is a line from her first book, Irene Iddesleigh, which her husband paid to have published as a tenth anniversary present to her: “She tried hard to keep herself a stranger to her poor old father's slight income by the use of the finest production of steel, whose blunt edge eyed the reely covering with marked greed, and offered its sharp dart to faultless fabrics of flaxen fineness.” 


She went on to publish more books and poetry, though. Here is the Wikipedia link for her. She apparently was a bit full of herself in addition to writing prose like that wonderful bit quoted above. 

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Momentum, And Loss

I’ve been making good progress on Gods of Talera this summer. This is the fifth book in the Taleran series and brings the current storyline to an end. During the last week in June and first week in July I was averaging over 1000 words a day, and a couple of times approached or exceeded 2000 words a day. I only count them when they are pretty well polished so that means quite a bit of wordage for me.

A lot of the progress I was making was due to two things, 1) getting into the routine of writing every day, which I can seldom do during the school year because of other work, and 2) the story developing momentum, with one idea leading to another and another and another. For me, that kind of thing starts to snowball and it revs up my excitement level for the tale, making it easier for me to dive into work every day.

Then, starting on Monday, July 6, the momentum started to fade. This was expected. I had a presentation on Dreams and Creativity to prepare for Saturday, July 11, and I started working on the presentation, as well as doing things to promote it. I managed a residual 1000 words on Gods on Tuesday, July 7, and then it dropped to virtually nothing the rest of the week as my attention turned toward the presentation.

I’ve found that I always have a day or two lag after a writing interruption before I can pick up the momentum again. I expected this after the dream presentation, and had already decided to take that Sunday off and hit it again hard on Monday. Sunday was when Randy Johnson died.

I didn’t get started back on Gods on Monday. I did a bit on Tuesday, then sagged again for a couple of more days. A big part of it was my sadness at Randy’s passing. I know some writers who seem to be most energized to write when they are upset emotionally. I’m not one of those writers, at least not where fiction is concerned. I write best when my mood is stable, and it wasn’t.

I realized on Thursday, though, that Randy, of all people, would not want any writer to write less because of his death. Randy loved good reading and, judging by his reviews, he loved the Talera series. I wrote about 800 words yesterday. Not quite a thousand but not a bad chunk. I’ve got to get my momentum back, gotta keep rolling. I owe it to Randy, and myself.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

On the Passing of a Friend

At about 8:30 Sunday night, I was sitting in the living room playing a video game when Lana, who was on facebook, gave a gasp. I asked her what was wrong and she told me, with a catch in her voice, that Randy Johnson had died. I jumped up and rushed over to her computer, hoping, hoping that it was a mistake, or that it wasn’t the Randy I knew. I’m afraid it was the Randy I knew, not the baseball player of that name, but the voracious reader, the music lover, the blogger, and my friend.

I may never have met Randy, although I spoke to him once on the phone, but he was definitely my friend. And he was the friend to a whole lot more of us, both in the blogging world and on facebook. We shared many interests in books and movies and music. He liked westerns and pulp stories and SF and fantasy. He liked Spaghetti westerns and was something of an expert in that area. He’d seen more of them than anyone I know. He liked hard rock and heavy metal music, and he had a great sense of humor.

Most importantly, Randy was a kind and thoughtful man, and a loyal friend. He cared about the rights, and freedoms and dignity of all humankind. He tirelessly supported me in my writing, and I know he did the same for a lot of others. He was the kind of person I could look up to. To say that he will be missed is an understatement. I am heartsick.


Randy had a chance to say his last piece in a blog post and facebook post put up by his nephew. I’ll leave you with the link to that blog

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Breaking Bad

Recently, Lana and I took a step to save some money by getting rid of most of our cable TV package. We kept only the local channels. Neither of us watches a lot of TV but we oftentimes do watch an hour or so in the evenings when we eat supper. To make for the lack of most of the cable channels, we decided that we'd pick up a few shows that we've always been interested in watching but never had through the library. Lana had known this, but I only found out recently when I started watching the early seasons of Game of Thrones, that this is the way to watch TV. You don't watch week to week and deal with commercials. You get the whole season and watch it an episode or two a night.

We decided to start our program with Breaking Bad. I'd heard many good things about it and had imagined I'd like it, but had never been able to catch it. We've watched season 1 and are just about finished with season 2. Here are some of my thoughts.

1. I am enjoying it but not finding it nearly as compelling as Game of Thrones. I think there are various reasons for this. For one, the setting for GOT is far more interesting than the suburbia of BB. Second, there are a lot more interesting characters in GOT. Walter, Jessy, and Hank are the most interesting characters to me so far in BB. Third, there are much more sympathetic characters in GOT than in BB.

2. One way I judge the quality of a show is whether it makes me want to inhabit that world in my imagination. I don't want to really live in GOT or BB land. But I've often found myself imagining interacting with the folks from GOT. Never with the folks from BB.

3. I've learned again that I really do like heroes. In BB, despite Walter selling Meth, I found him a very sympathetic and even heroic character in the first season. In the second season he has become, for want of a better word, a "dick." I'm not liking him much at all, and my interest in the show has waned accordingly. Jessie is too weak at present to be much of a hero so I'm left with no one to root for. Hank seems the most heroic character at the moment, but he doesn't have a lot of screen time. Although many folks have told me they thought season 2 of BB was better than season 1, I can't agree, and I think this is the main reason.

4. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely enjoying Breaking Bad and will watch it most likely to the end as Lana brings home the other seasons. I'm expecting to see the continued deterioration of Walter White.

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